KIAF 2023 Cultural Expedition Travel Route

Following on from the highly successful “Hand in Hand – Kidogo Irish Aboriginal Festival 2023″, Joanna Robertson (Creative Director of KIAF) organised a Cultural Expedition to visit remote aboriginal communities that she had connections with. Joanna invited Machán Magan (Author, Orator and Irish Language Expert) who was visiting Australia to speak at the festival, to join her on her travels. Together they travelled to Kununurra, Balgo and Yiyili (Mueller Ranges) located in the far north of Western Australia.

Joanna Robertson (R) with Manchán Magan (L)
Joanna Robertson (R) with Manchán Magan (L)


Upon landing in Kununurra, Joanna and Manchán visited the Waringarri Art Centre and met with senior lore man and artist, Ben Ward.

This was followed by a one on one cultural briefing by Waringarri Arts Tour Guide, Peter Griffiths-Sebastien and cultural learning at Lake Argyle.


After their time in Kununurra, Joanna and Manchán travelled 8 hours South to Balgo, which is located on the edge of the Tanami Desert and the Great Sandy Desert.

Balgo is now well known for their “Warlayirti Artists” community, which was established with the help of Sister Alice Dempsey (IRE) in the 1980s. The Warlayirti Artists are good friends of the Kidogo Irish Aboriginal Festival as their work was exhibited during the inaugural festival in 2021.

During their visit, Joanna and Manchán stayed at the residence of the director of  Art Centre. 


 • Meet and greet with the Warlayirti Artists at the Art Centre

 • Tour of the country learning about mountains in the area

 • Cooking an Irish / Aboriginal meal on country over fire

    • Joanna baked her famous Irish Soda-bread over fire
    • The tour guides cooked traditional Kangaroo tails and “soup” soup

 • Returned to the Art Centre and cooked a meal for the artists


 • Fishing trip with kids and people of the Mulen and Balgo communities

 • Gracie Mosquito who is responsible for the lore of the lake performed a traditional blessing on Joanna and Manchán

• Gracie baked her Damper for dinner

• Cultural exchange session at dinner


• Learning more about the Warlayirti Artists

• A painting was created by the Lee sisters for Sister Alice Dempsey – who now resides in Ireland

• Manchán Magan later delivered the painting to Sister Alice who was thrilled to receive her gift


For their final stop, Joanna and Manchan made their way to Yiyili, which is a closed community, 6 hours north-west of Balgo. Their time in Yiyili included learning about the lore of the country, tours of the landscape, learning about bush medicine and other traditions, a class on Gooniyandi language as well as teaching special art techniques to the artists in the community and teaching bread baking and an introduction to Irish language to the children.


 • Meet and greet with the community artists at Laarri Gallery

   Cultural walking tour with Kenneth Dawson through a semi-dry riverbed 

    • A tutorial on how to make spearheads
    • Blessing performed for Joanna and Manchán by Kenneth Dawson with Ochres
    • Sharing of information about the water, spirits and lore pertaining to the area

 • Road-trip with Elders Frances and Paul Cox to remote areas, a waterfall and land formations

    • Sharing of lore and traditional knowledge of burning off the land
    • Exchanging information about bush medicine techniques and ancient Irish medicine techniques

   An introductory class on the Gooniyandi Language

 • Linguistics class by Manchán Magan for the community’s primary school children

   Three hour trip with children from the community who shared their understanding of lore and connection to country

   Bread baking class by Joanna Robertson for the community’s primary school children

   Colour mixing class by Joanna Robertson for the artists

   Discussion about the effects of colonialism on community with Robert Nangala